Illegally tuning E-Bikes is a matter of life and death

Photo by Luke Stackpole

An Electric bike, more widely referred to as an E-Bike, is simply a bicycle with an integrated motor which provides assistance for the rider to propel their bike forward. The two common forms of assistance provided are throttle assist and pedelic assist. Pedelic, the most popular option, works by adding measured and powered assistance as you pedal your bike. Throttle assist for an E-Bike works similar to a motorbike; an option to pedal and a throttle for the motor of you’re not peddling. An E-Bike is still classified as a bicycle and not a motorbike, as such, has speed limitations associated with it, along with adhering to the same road rules as a bicycle. Riding an E-Bike does not require a license, but E-Bike laws do vary from country to country, particularly in regard to motor output for both throttle and pedelic assisted bikes. OUTPUT, SPEED and the LAW For example, in Europe, throttle assisted bikes cannot have a motor output of 200w and pedelic no more than 250w. Along with motor limits, each county has speed limits imposed on E-Bikes as well. In the UK the speed limit is 20mph, where recently a London based brick layer was going 30mph when he collided with a woman crossing the street, who died in hospital the next day. The brickie was charged with “Death by Careless Driving” with the prosecution claiming that his bike “used a battery rather than an engine and was classed as a motorcycle rather than an electrically-assisted pedal cycle because it could travel at more than the legal 15.5mph limit.” It was decided that the bike had been tuned to give it more power than the manufacturer intended, with the prosecutor pushed farther stating “The vehicle that Mr Hanlon was riding was fitted with a motor that could propel the vehicle at a much greater speed.” This is believed to be the first death of a pedestrian, after a collision with an E-Bike in the UK. After an hour’s deliberation, the jury found the E-Bike rider not guilty of all charges. ILLEGAL E-BIKE TUNING IN FRANCE On the 24th of December, 2019 France amended a traffic law that relates to both throttle and pedelic assisted bikes. The amendment states that if anyone modifies their E-Bike, enabling it to exceed the maximum, authorised speed – could face one year in prison, have their bike impounded and up to €30,000 in fines. This new law is applicable to both retailers and individuals. Despite many E-Bike motor manufacturers taking measures to prevent tuning, it remains a very big and extremely dangerous issue facing the E-Bike community.